BUNNY IN THE CITY: Alzheimer’s Walk Kickoff Party at Savannah Square

With an invite from Savannah Square’s Kelli Hartley for the Alzheimer Walk Kickoff on August 4, I walk up to the upscale retirement facility and find renowned veteran Robert Cutler seated outside. Dapper dressed, the World War II veteran is a Coast Guard retired Lt Commander and at 97 years old, one of the oldest living veterans in Savannah.

Proud to see him in attendance at the last Veterans Council monthly meeting, I recall the reaction of the VC members when Chairman Joe Higgins announced that Robert was in attendance. A ripple of noise went through the room, then all you heard was the sound of chairs being pushed back as every man and woman stood and applauded. 

After shaking this local hero’s hand, I head inside the lobby and see Alzheimer’s Association Executive Director Stephen Holland  waving me over for a pic with our hostess Kelli. Before I snap a pic of the good friends, let me give you a little background on this blonde dynamo. The former Georgia Southern University cheerleader recently won the Coastal Georgia Dancing with the Stars Gala People’s Choice Award for raising $52,000 for the local Georgia Chapter Alzheimer’s Association earlier this year!

With six years working with 200 senior citizens at Savannah Square, the Marietta native is a fitness guru, has a side hustle selling beauty and health products and can be found on the water every second she is able with her uber attractive husband, Garrett. Having seen all the photos on Facebook of her blessed life, I am always delighted to get a call from this passionate supporter of seniors.

While asking Kelli to put her petite frame on the staircase to elevate her for the photo, I chat with Stephen about his personal connection to Alzheimer’s. “My paternal grandmother, Emma Juanice Ames Holland, had this dreaded disease for 15 years. This led to my path in the nonprofit world,” shares the devoted Savannahian. 

Feeling a tap on my shoulder, I turn around and see Jeff Heeder of Merrill Lynch and the Kiwansis Club of Skidaway Island. After fulfilling his photo request for a group pic with Jessika Garcia, Greg Witbeck and Shirley Smith, I head over to meet Abide Home Care’s Roxan Campfield, Christy Smith and Reagan Daly. Loving the cool energy of the ladies that “provide world class health care to anyone in need”, I am snapping a team pic when I hear a familiar voice calling  my name.

Hello Allison Adams! Looking like a rock star with her short blonde hair and vivid attire, I asked the Georgia House Call’s Director of Growth and Development what she would do if she wasn’t in health care. “I would be a singer! Either jazz or country music,” shares the jewelry loving, leopard print wearing, avid traveler!

Seeing more familiar faces like Help at Home’s “queen of all things” Jami Murray and Coastal Care Partners Tonya Hillis and Joyce McBride, I cruise over for a pic of the ladies surrounding Joyce’s husband Robert. Y’all, I have known these peeps for over a decade and seeing them is like seeing family!

Working the room, I meet Garden City Elementary teacher Angel Griffin. The quiet local lady tells me about her love of sewing, painting and church while her friend Carolyn V.B. Bush takes a seat to tell me about her book, “God, Momma and Me.” “This book tells the story of my journey of being a caregiver for my mother for eight years,” shares the 73 year old.

You may recognize Carolyn from her early AM walks at Daffin Park or from her 27 years in the Air Force, 13 years at Memorial Health, 25 years as a lab tech or at church where she organizes activities for seniors. Telling me of her passion for caring for our elderly, I nod in agreement and tell her about my love of veterans.

Next up is Michelle Lagares with iResearch Savannah. Raised in Boston, Michelle is at as many networking events as I am, is a fierce cyclist and works with “Save a Gato,” a nonprofit that rescues dogs from Puerto Rico. After a pic of her with Amy Bodek, I take a seat to listen to Stephen kick off the event.

When you hear the statistics— “1 in 3 seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and that in the last decade Alzheimer’s death’s have increased by 145 percent in comparison to a 7.3% decrease from heart disease”—it makes it easy to understand why Kelli, Joyce and Stephen are so dedicated in their efforts to raise funds for this horrific disease. Well done my friends!  

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